To become a pilot, new Sequim High School graduate Aidan Lara said, one must be highly motivated.
“There is a lot of reading and studying involved, but it’s worth it and if you have a passion for aviation, it makes the learning easier,” said Lara, who takes lessons at the Anatolian Eagle Flight Academy at Sequim Valley Airport.
Lara has been passionate about aviation since he was 2 years old, and he joined the Young Eagles at age 8, but he waited until the summer after graduation to enroll. Three of his friends had taken lessons from Cenk (pronounce Jenk) Özer at the academy and he’d heard only good things about it.
“You must be in the right mental state, financial state, have a supportive family, and be motivated and ready for lots of learning,” said Aidan.
With Özer, the pilot-in-training can be sure he’ll get plenty of instruction on safety.
“In my flight school safety is the number one priority — always,” Özer said.
He said that he advises potential pilots to think about how much support the people close to them give to the endeavour, and to consider how their absence from home will affect their families.
Sometimes he has to decline students who are not ready for the rigors of the course and the disciplines of aviation.
“As a business owner I have a right to refuse to train someone I think will be a dangerous pilot,” Özer said. “Dangerous pilots make wrong decisions and the result could be fatal and I do not want to put my name on this pilots training record.”
“We practice what is called, ‘The impossible turn.’ It is when you lose an engine on takeoff and pilots tend to try and turn back to the airport,” explained Lara. “To execute this safely, both in real life and in the simulations, you must have enough altitude and be close enough to the airport to make it back safely. This situation, in real life, is where pilots often crash because they wait too long to react, they don’t have the altitude, or they don’t know how to execute the maneuver. This is one of the most important maneuvers to know, in the aspect of safety.”
Sequim Valley Airport manager Andy Sallee said teaching the next generation of pilots is critical for the industry.
“We need small flight schools to teach new pilots for general aviation to continue to thrive,” Sallee said. “These new pilots will conduct future life-saving emergency medical evacuation flights, blood bank flights, rescue missions, forest fire fighting, air transportation of passengers and cargo along with many additional functions. These pilots are needed to replace pilots who are retiring.
“The Anatolian Flight Academy will also help keep pilots current with up to date procedures with the highest emphasis on safety.”
Ray Beverly, federal aviation administration (FAA) designated pilot examiner (DPE) said that none of Özer’s students have ever failed the test — not one.
“I’ve been flying my whole life, so this comes from a wide perspective. Cenk Özer is a very good instructor.”
From Anatolia to the Olympics
A first generation immigrant from the Anatolian mountains of Türkiye, Özer came to the Olympic Peninsula in 2010. Although he’d already accomplished a lot with his schooling: an electronic and communication engineering bachelor degree in Türkiye and a master’s degree in engineering in Germany, he had a higher goal in mind.
“Becoming a pilot was always my biggest dream growing up as a kid. I grew up dreaming about it days and nights,” said Özer. “In Türkiye we did not have the opportunities you guys have in the USA.
“America is a heaven for pilots,” said Özer. “If you work hard, you can make a lot of things happen here.”
Özer’s first job here was working for the National Park Service on a work visa, and he fell in love with the land.
“Sequim is my home for the last 13 years,” said Özer. “It reminds me of my village where I was born and raised.”
His village of 2,000 people is more than 6,500 feet above sea level.
“It is mountains and green and clear water, farms, cows,” he said. “That is why I love it here and I feel I belong to here.”
Özer worked for about seven years to save up enough money to learn to fly, and then he learned to fly as many different airplanes as he could (more than 50 makes and models). He learned from as many different teachers as he possible, noting that each teacher has their own skills and experiences to learn from and synthesize into his own unique teaching style.
In fact, Özer said, he is still learning.
“I have a saying that a good pilot learns everyday,” he said. “The training never ends. The moment you stop learning you will start rusting.”
Özer said the local community has been very supportive of him, “especially the local pilots and YMCA. I love the YMCA. A lot of people welcomed me and helped me succeed because they saw me working days and nights, very hard, nonstop.”
The Flight Academy, said Özer, is his way to give back to a community that has given so much to him.
Airplanes are expensive to maintain and there is not a large student population in the area, so the business is mainly a labor of love. He supports this with his other work, all flight related, primarily flying big jets for Amazon Prime.
Özer thanked Andy Sallee, Bob McCrorie, Gary Vihinen, John Mangiameli, Katherine Harrop, Linda Priddle, Richards Bud Davies and Scott Brooksby for providing “tremendous and endless support of my personal aviation career and flight school business in our beautiful Sequim home in the last four years.”
Said Sallee, “We’re real proud of him. I’ve watched Cenk from the beginning. He came so far so fast. He was so determined. He’s gotten farther in his six years than a lot of people do in ten.”
Anatolian Eagle Flight Academy
Location: Sequim Valley Airport, 468 Dorothy Hunt Lane
On the web: anatolianeagleflightacademy.com
Contact: 360-775-7599, firstname.lastname@example.org